Tag Archives: chocolate cake for Passover

The Uncle Josh Haggadah Project 2012

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake

I’m just Jewish enough that every April, I remember Passover’s coming. I remember matzo ball soup and brisket and that we should all feel very lucky, but I never quite remember the Passover story. I know there was something about Moses and a basket, but who’s son was he again? And what’s this about parting the Red Sea? Or was it the Black Sea? Forget remembering all four questions.

Luckily, I have a brother who remembers everything, and can write. Every year, Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project (PDF) frames the Passover story in modern times, pairing a practical Seder guide (which I desperately need) with political commentary.

Take the story of Moses:

Although a child of extreme privilege, as Moses grew he became aware of the slaves who worked for and were laid off by his adoptive father at his corporate offices around the world. When Moses saw that his new father figure made millions of dollars and paid an effective 15% tax rate while the other 99% of the population paid more while trying to make ends meet on measly salaries, he joined the “Occupy Giza” Movement and wound up killing a distracted CEO who wandered into the camp while making deals on his Blackberry.

Or the tale of why the Jews made matzah:

Fearful that that the sometimes progressive but often backward magic underwear Pharaoh would change his mind, our people fled in a hurry. Instead of packing fresh bagels and lox and a nice baguette with organic brie like they imagined normal Jews would, you know, if they ever went camping, our people had to slap together some flour and water and bake it pronto. Only later did they realize the stuff had the texture of saltines and the flavor of cardboard. We called it Matzah, and we eat it as a mitzvah eight days a year instead of bread, which always seems like a good idea on the first night but gets old after half a box.

On the first night of Passover, I’ll make a chametz-filled cake in the shape of a train for my kid’s third birthday, and forget Passover exists. On the second night, I’ll do brisket or chicken or whatever seems most Passover to me at the time, and I’ll read Uncle Josh’s Haggadah, which is themed “for the Great Recovery” this year. (That seems so appropriate for me.) We’ll eat flourless chocolate cake spiked with basil. On the third night, I’ll celebrate Easter with my husband’s family, and we’ll eat leftover cake and I’ll feel guilty we’re not doing Seder twice, like some people do.

And then I’ll take another bite of cake.

Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project 2012 (PDF of full Haggadah, by Joshua Howe)

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake (PDF)
A true torte typically replaces a cake’s flour with nuts or breadcrumbs, so I won’t call it that, but this deeply chocolaty, dense confection, rimmed with dark ganache, just almost too decadent for the word cake. It’s a take-off on a chocolate-basil truffle I tasted Seattle’s Theo Chocolate a few years back.

Note: If you have a double boiler, use that to melt the chocolate.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.

Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.

Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.

While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small saucepan, and stir constantly over very low heat until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired. (Hint: Using the ganache immediately will mean a thin coating that drips easily down the sides of the cake; in this case, it’s best to frost the cake over a cooling rack, then transfer it to a serving plate. You can also let the ganache cool a bit, then spread it just on the top, more like a thin frosting.)

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Filed under Cakes, commentary, gluten-free

The macaroon I was craving

Double Chocolate Macaroon Cake 2

These days, because Graham prefers to monopolize one of my upper appendages at all times with his babooning, my recreational kitchen activity falls into two distinct camps: Things I Can Do While My Child Naps and Things I Cannot Start Until He Goes to Bed. In the former group, I place things like “eat a bowl of cereal,” “empty the dishwasher,” and “throw a salad together for lunch.” Since this time of year, most produce hasn’t quite mastered the art of needing nothing, these are not usually exciting things. The latter hosts more ambitious projects, like making a few pans of lasagna for the freezer, or a batch of chicken and kale stew – you know, useful, dinnerish things. This is not a time in my life for French onion soup, or homemade pasta, or for fancy layer cakes.

But somehow, late last week, in the space of a morning nap, I made a macaroon cake.

By now, you must know I have a weakness for simple cakes. To qualify as “simple,” there are criteria to meet: A simple cake must be made in one bowl, without the aid of anything electric. It must be single-layer. It must beckon the next day at 10 a.m. and at 2 p.m. And, above all, it must be flexible – gussy-up-able for a party, or delicious made in its absolute simplest form, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, and eaten straight out of the pan. Simple cakes are the favorite jeans of the dessert world. (Last week, I retired my favorite jeans. It was time; jeans make better doors than windows. I’m a wreck about it.)

I thought, when I slid it into the oven, that this was a cake that wanted a little drama. It had been so simple to make – just a little melting, a little whisking, and a little folding, plus enough coconut to satisfy last week’s macaroon issue. I thought I heard it cry for frills and lace, in the form of a flood of deep chocolate ganache and a blizzard of toasted large-flake coconut. I melted chocolate. I toasted coconut. Only, when the cake came out, it cried louder to be eaten. I listened. (Pay close attention, readers. Anthropomorphizing desserts enables you to excuse any lack of self-restraint in the kitchen.)

When you have a cake that’s less patient than an almost-one-year-old, there’s not much you can do. I recommend taking a seat on the porch steps, just inside the shade line, so you (and perhaps a small hipster) can watch the camellias absorb a warm spring afternoon. I’m not sure there’s anything nicer.

Well, okay. Two slices is pretty nice, too.

(You Passover people: I’d be willing to bet it’d be fabulous with a scoop of Coconut Bliss.)

Double Chocolate Macaroon Cake

Double Chocolate Macaroon Cake (PDF)

It’s a cake. No, it’s a chocolate macaroon. No, wait, it’s a cake. It’s both! Stuffed with coconut but stirred and baked like a regular cake, this sweet confection is quick to make and absolutely satisfying. Eat it straight up, right out of the pan like brownies, or fancy it up with a drizzle of ganache and a flurry of toasted coconut. (For real drama, make two, and layer it up.) My preference is somewhere in between—topped simply, with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.

Note: I melt the chocolate and butter together in the microwave with good results. In my appliance, two 30-second increments on high power (stirring in between) works well.

TIME: 20 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
1 cup unsweetened medium-shredded coconut (such as Bob’s Red Mill)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of waxed paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, and stir in the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in gently with a spatula until no dry spots remain. Fold in the coconut, then pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges of the cake just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the center is puffed. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack, then again onto a round serving plate.

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Filed under Cakes, dessert, gluten-free, jewish, recipe